Drier winter predicted for area
By By Arthur McLean Managing Editor
Despite Monday's downpour, the winter is shaping up to be drier than normal for the Atmore area.
Rainfall figures kept by the National Weather Service in Mobile, show that rainfall for December and January was below normal.
Rainfall for December was nearly one inch below normal while the rainfall for January was more than 1.5 inches below normal.
So far, the weather is tracking along predictions by the National Climate Prediction Center that this will be a drier than normal winter.
The center is predicting that the region including south Alabama will see about 30 percent less rainfall from January to March.
But January turned out to be much wetter than last year, which received slightly more than a half inch of rain for the month.
While drier conditions won't hurt some crops like the wheat planted in the area, Cecil Daniel at Hendrix Tractor Co. said dry winter conditions could cause problems for the farmers of other crops down the road.
"Well, we need that winter rain to build up the groundwater moisture for the other crops," Daniel said.
Cotton, soybeans and corn, the three most popular crops in the area, all depend on significant rainfall totals.
Over the past two years, El Nino – a warming of south Atlantic waters – has significantly affected rainfall totals throughout the U.S.
In 2002, extreme drought conditions affected many parts of the Southeast, while in 2003, rainfall was well above average for the year.
While drier, this year is not expected to create severe drought, experts said.
This year, the forecasters at the National Weather Service Center in Mobile said El Nino is in what they called a neutral patter, meaning it should not have a large impact on local weather patterns.